After the Fire

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I closed two yoga studios about 4 years ago. Running and closing those studios has been two of the most challenging things I've ever done.

It's really difficult to run a small business. I fought every day just to keep the doors open. Eventually, we had to close our doors; the studios weren’t sustainable. I wish I knew then what I know now about running a business. Ironically, I learned volumes about running a business by closing my business. One of the most important things I learned was how to rebuild my life when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.

At the time of my businesses closing, I wished there were a manual for how to rebuild your life after you’ve just suffered a massive blow. During that difficult time, I received some divine guidance during a meditation, instruction that seemed absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. 

Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning.

Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.

Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.

In order to get some clear perspective, I had to get out of town for a few weeks to clear my head. I closed my studios and literally one week later got married to the love of my life. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My wife and I went on a honeymoon to Europe coupled with me teaching a yoga retreat and getting out of town really helped me to gain perspective. I felt reinvented as I came home from Europe, ready to tackle some of the challenges that were still looming as the result of closing my studios.

The situation still felt raw, like was just coming to, sitting on a neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. And in a real way, many things about my old business were still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachlorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There was only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this situation was scary, it feel freeing to look forward into the future. 

The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and represents the male/female creator of the universe in the dance of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and ultimate rebirth . . . over and over and over again. This statue teaches me that I’m involved in a process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime.

This understanding of moving in cycles made me feel better, like all of this was expected somehow. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.  

We are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?

And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.  

Here’s a poem I love that speaks to discovering the new chapter in your life.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

Hawaii Yoga

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness

Yoga Amalfi Coast

Yoga Retreat Along the Amalfi Coast

May 26–June 2 2018. Only 3 Spots Left!

Part 1: Chubby Hula Dancer's Last Ride

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Ever feel like life is all some absurd cartoon? Let me fill you in. This story is how my truck got stolen and how it helped me be more mindful. 

See, I used to drive a wonderful old truck ('93 Nissan) which was very generously given to me in February 2006 when crisis came to visit for a winter. Different story, different day. 

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My truck's name was Nina cuz she was red and sultry like Nina Simone and sounded like she'd been smoking without a filter and drinking gasoline her entire life. Over the years, I'd put a little money into her to keep her running, but largely she was a wonderfully reliable part of my life.

Nina was a great old lady. She was missing a tailpipe, her radio was broken, sun visors missing, driver's side mirror broken, and one of the windows on her shell was shattered, but she started up almost every time. It was a stark moment when I realized that the exterior had reached such a point of dereliction that washing her would only harm her more. 

I had a constant companion riding shotgun in this rusty ride. Affixed to the dash was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer. Over the years I'd learned that we share a love for jazz organ music. I know this because that's when did her best dancing. I mean she REALLY got into it. I'd often car-dance along with her but I couldn't compare to the sweet moves of Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer.

1"

Another fun feature of my ride was the sticker on the back window which read 1". You know those stickers people post on the back of their cars that simply say 26.2? They are bragging rights for those who have trod the distance of a marathon. Well, I made a sticker in the same style that simply read 1". And yes, in a hyper-masculine world of lift kits and truck nuts it takes someone very secure in his manhood to roll around town with a 1" sticker on the back of his truck.

The sticker is a references to one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry called "A Spiritual Journey." 

"A Spiritual Journey"

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And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet,

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and learn to be at home.

To me, this poem reminds me that the greatest journey I will ever travel or the greatest place I might ever hope to arrive is the distance of 1", to the ground at my own feet, the awareness of my True Self, the real, Divine me, and to feel at home in my own heart, and to know whatever lives there.

Honeymoon is Over

So, in August of  2014 my wife and I were living in Salt Lake City. We'd only been married for a few months and already we had been through tremendous highs and lows. Literally one week prior to getting married, I'd closed the doors on the two yoga studios I owned, both of which had been limping along for years. But getting married was bliss and we'd just come home from our honeymoon to Greece and Spain where we lay on the beach, ate pastries with abandon, and fell deeper in love with each other.

Before getting married, I had been under enormous stress and now, back from our honeymoon, I was eager to move forward in my life with more bliss, happiness and stability.

Not long after coming home from our honeymoon, Seneca's car, received a terminal diagnosis from the auto shop and we decided to sell it—I posted it online and it sold in 14 minutes for cash. So, for a few weeks were sharing my truck. Sharing a car made getting around a little tricky but we managed. Compared to the stress I'd already had that summer, the stress of sharing a car was nothing.  

Super-human Core Strength

One Saturday we decided to drive my truck down to the Farmers Market. We parked and walked the few blocks over to buy our produce. 

On our way back, we returned to the place I'd parked my truck and it wasn't there. Instead, it was parked about 100 feet away in a different spot. Confused, I started to think through the possibilities: Had I left the truck out of gear? Maybe it started to roll and someone had kindly parked it on flat ground for me? Was I parked illegally and law enforcement had moved it? Was there a free valet service at the Farmers Market? I hadn't given anybody my keys.

 

None of these options made sense and as I got closer to my truck I saw someone milling about it and it dawned on me what was happening—someone was stealing my truck at that moment!

I broke into a dead sprint toward my truck and the Truck Thief. Truck Thief saw that his heist's owner was bearing down toward him and panicked. He immediately jumped into the cab and started the engine. I saw that he had parked in front of a large concrete barrier and couldn't move forward and I soon arrived arrived to the back of the truck before he could back up preventing him from getting away. I began to scream at him to stop stealing my truck. 

At that moment, Truck Thief and I had the exact same thought: There's no way to steal this truck with someone standing behind it. Truck Thief soon thought of a different option, one I had not considered up to that point, which was to run over the lesser of the two obstacles blocking his way (read the crazy dude standing with his hands on the back, screaming).  Without a hesitation, Truck Thief threw Nina into reverse and floored it. Fortunately the tires we pretty bald, giving me a warning screech and a half of a second delay to jumped out of the way. 

As the truck whizzed past me,  I did the first thing that came to mind which was to grab onto the half-rolled window on the driver's side and proceeded to run with him as he was backing at an incredible speed. I don't know what I was hoping for with that desperate action. I'm a yoga teacher and I know that with enough core strength you can do anything. Perhaps I thought that if I could just lift the car up, immobilizing all four wheels, I could hold it there until the cops came. For a brief second we were our faces were mere inches apart. And though I was so close, I honestly can't say what his face looked like because it wildly distorted with a look that said, "Holy shit! That dude's running next to me and holding onto the window while I'm stealing his ride!" 

He then popped the truck into gear and shot off, ripping my hands from the window and tearing out of the parking lot then down the road like a fugitive, leaving me standing there like an idiot—but an idiot who didn't get ran over. Seneca stood 50 feet away and watched the entire event transpire in complete horror.

After it was all done, we stood there staring at each other with a look like, "Well, that just happened." It was over in 10 seconds or less.

We called the police. They filed a report.

Then we walked a half block to one of Salt Lake City's best coffee shops, The Rose Establishment, to have some coffee and wait for someone to come and give us a ride. While waiting for our ride, I posted on social media, "Because when someone has just stolen your truck, you deserve a really nice cup of coffee." While waiting for the baristas to make our brew, it dawned on me that in a matter of two weeks, we had gone from having two cars, to one, to none. And while we don't mind walking, it feels differently when you gotta walk cuz someone ripped off your ride.

Mindfully Pissed

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Here's where this get's a little deep. This might sound out there but, even while my truck was being stolen and then directly after, I felt a strange sense of grand awareness about the whole thing. Even while it was happening, I could see that in the big picture, what's true is that getting your truck stolen really isn't that big a deal. In fact, in some ways it feels completely absurd, like I'm staring in my own cartoon, as my friend Nan puts it. I'm sure I'd feel differently if the guy had ran over me. 

Yet with the very same awareness that getting your truck stolen is ultimately inconsequential, came the realization that what is also true is that my smaller self has real and intense feelings about getting my truck stolen. Despite my intermittent "grand awareness," the stoic and bland "it-is-what-it-is" mindset doesn't cut it with me. Not entirely. "What it is" sucks! And to deny that is to deny the part of me that despite not having the grand awareness, still exists, at least to some degree.

Yoga and meditation has taught me not to deny my feelings but rather to drink them in and thereby use them to illuminate the True Self, tools for practicing being aware. 

Awareness of the True Self is actually about freedom. The freedom , for example, is to be absolutely present with emotions, not to deny them. So with that in mind, I felt free to choose to be mindfully pissed off and honored my primal need to shout loudly through my clenched teeth every four letter word I know . . . besides love . . . and hope . . . and nice.

I wonder if Truck Thief was thinking to himself, "I'm very mindfully pinching this dude's ride. Vrrr-Ommmmmm."?

As I saw my truck reseed into the distance, my 1" sticker reminded me that the crucial step along the journey toward the True Self is to be at home in my heart and to learn to be comfortable with everything as just it is. This spiritual journey of 1", like Wendell Berry says,  is "arduous, humbling and joyful by which I arrive at the ground at my feel and learn to be at home." And at that moment I was forced into learning this lesson which lay at my feet because for the unforeseeable future, I would be walking. 

Driving It Home

May our practice, whether on or off the mat, be to strive to always experience this "arduous, humbling and joyful" journey of the human experience to the fullest, and use the events which befall us as tools to become ever more aware of our True Self. Be the small self of emotions and the True Self with the grand perspective. Practice this and be responsible and kind to other people. 

 GIF at https://tenor.com/

GIF at https://tenor.com/

Sometimes this life really does feel like some wild Sponge Bob Square Pants episode that the Divine is Netflixing alone on some late night while drinking a beer and eating some non-GMO corn chips and salsa.

In the big picture getting my truck stolen wasn't very important. I actually enjoyed riding my bike for a while, burning off some of the pastries I ate while on my honeymoon, and simultaneously burning off some of the anger resulting from getting my ride pinched. 

I'm sure Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer never danced for Truck Thief as wildly as she did for me. 

And while I pedaled around Salt Lake City,  I hoped that Truck Thief would return my truck with a full tank of gas.

The story continues . . . 


3 hours of relaxing Guided Meditations for Sleep Plus Much More.

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    Go with the Flow: Following Your Life's Purpose

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    It’s your life’s deepest work to discover, unlock, and share your heart’s gift with the world. And to know it requires a deep and regular turning inward, to learn to know your heart through regular practices like yoga and meditation.

    Yoga and meditation are perfect mediums to help you reveal your heart’s gift because they simply reveal what already exists inside of you. These practices help you to come to know your True Self, and when you are aligned with this infinite part of you, the part that is tapped into your Universal blueprint, your purpose, your gift becomes clear to your conscious mind and so does the invitation to share it with the world.

    As you begin to tap into your heart through meditation and yoga, you begin to hear it whisper its purpose. That message becomes clearer and clearer the more you listen. But it takes time and dedicated work to arrive. Likewise it takes work and inspiration to learn how to give this gift to the world. But when you abandon yourself to the work of discovering and offering your heart’s gift to the world, you’ll be amazed at what starts to align and proliferate in your life.

    In part, this alignment happens because you’ve suddenly started swimming in tandem with the current of your life’s purpose, rather than against it. That’s not to say there won’t be obstacles in the way. It simply means that when obstacles do arrive, you’ll know that they are the ones that were meant for you and that will give you the courage and insight to surmount them.

     

    Enter your email address to receive one of the most relaxing and profound methods of meditating I've ever experienced. This will help you to regularly listen to your heart. Then, I'll send you some of my best practices for meditation. Regular meditation will begin to uncover the jewel of your heart and teach you things about yourself you didn't know, namely it will refine or define your heart's gift for the world and will help you to learn how to share it with the world. 

    Please join me for my next online Yoga Nidra, yoga, and optimization course beginning on February 12 2018

     

    Sourcing Your Heart's Gift 

    an online meditation and yoga course designed to help you to dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share it with the world.

    February 12- March 25 2018

    Would you mind sharing this?

    Dancing with Maya

    Virtual Yoga Nidra

    Humankind has evolved looking at itself and wondering, "who am I?" What does it mean to Be?

    We explore every avenue to help answer and express this question of being, including art, science, politics, religion, etc. Surely something can help me solve this mystery, right?

    Consider: what you are is more of an idea than a thing. Stay with me . . .

    If you were to look out your window and see a mountain, it looks pretty solid and real, right? But try to define it. Find the place where the mountain definitively starts and stops. Try to find how the matter of the mountain is different than the matter of the valley. Isn’t it all just dirt, rocks, weeds, trees, and rivers?  Go on a hike and find a pinecone. Is that part of the mountain? If yes, then if you were to take it home with you back into the valley, would it still be the mountain? What about the rains that fall on the mountain? Moments before the rain fell, it was cloud. But from afar the rain looks like part of the mountain. My point is that there's nothing that could be definitively and categorically called "mountain." Mountain is more of an idea.  

    And so are you. We all are. That's because anything we tend to identify as "us" is in constant flux. Just like the pinecone that is part of the mountain one moment and decorating our mantle at home the next, these volatile elements can't identify us and can’t answer the question “who am I?”

    We tend to identify ourselves with things that feel relatively concrete like our bodies, our thoughts, our beliefs, etc. But these things, just like the rain or pinecone, are invariably changeable. In yoga, these false identifiers are called Maya or illusions because while they hint at defining us, truly they can't point to the real us, our Being. 

    Speaking to the ever-changing illusion of our bodies, there's a really cool Radiolab podcast that explore carbon dating in the cells in our bodies. On the show, experts say that the oldest cells in us are about 23 years old. Since our cells are constantly dying and new ones are being born, we are in a process of constant metamorphosis. Essentially if you're 23 years or older, every cell in your body has been born after you were born. You are literally not the same person you were when you were born. What a trip! Take your fingernails. They feel like us, right? But as soon as we cut them, suddenly they aren’t part of us anymore?
    So how can we possibly "be" something that is one moment and isn't the next?

    A better question is what is that thing that is "us" which never changes? Is there anything?

    Yes, there is. I’ve experienced it and so have you. There are several ways to experience this part of us that never changes but I’ve experienced it most often and profoundly by practicing Yoga Nidra, this relaxing, medative practice of self-inquiry that I’m so passionate about and can’t stop talking about. Yoga Nidra has completely blown my mind because of how it as enabled me to experience my True Self. And the best way to describe this True Self is Awareness.

    Yep, I'm Awareness. And so are you. That might seem pretty abstract, but when you boil it all down, the one thing that doesn’t change is your Awareness. When I experience myself as Awareness, and I proffer that we all have at some time or other, it feels like the most natural thing in the Universe. I feel as if I’m bigger and smaller than my body. I can see my thoughts and emotions as an interesting part of me but not anything that can define me. As Awareness, I feel both large and small. I feel limitless and compact at the same time. I feel like I can do anything.

    As I experience myself as Awareness regularly through practicing Yoga Nidra, I gain a perspective of my life that ordinary living can't give me. As Awareness, there's nothing I can't do, nothing I need, and no such thing as time. It's an experience of happiness beyond bliss. 

    This shit is real! And all I have to do is lie down, close my eyes, and listen to the teacher guide me into Awareness. Really, it’s just about learning to pay keen attention, though a teacher is nice.

    It’s not hard. The channel that propels me into this Awareness comes through that liminal state of mind between waking and dreaming consciousness, similar to a daydream. That state is called the Nidra state. In fact, even if I fall asleep, the Awareness part of me is still paying attention. I might therefore wake up from a 30-minute Yoga Nidra-induced nap feeling lucid and relaxed. I  may not even remember the session.

    After practicing Yoga Nidra and experiencing myself as Awareness, I go back into my world, full of its illusions, and see clearly how everything but this Awareness is simply part of the illusion. With this immense perspective, my problems make sense, I’m not freaked out by stress, I feel closer to my family, and I feel an enormous sense of purpose in the world and energy to go out and share my gifts. And when problems come around, I’m grounded knowing what I truly am is Awareness and that anything I’m experiencing in this moment is just another opportunity to practice Awareness. I then have the wherewithal to then respond to the situation rather than react.

    So, there’s the True Self which is Awareness, and there’s Maya, the illusion. And here’s the interesting thing about the relationship between Maya and Awareness, Maya isn’t something to transcend on our way to the True Self, this happiness beyond bliss. Maya is a vital tool which is inextricably married to experiencing myself as Awareness. I am Awareness manifesting itself by way of body, emotions, breath, sensation, beliefs, etc. Without these changeable parts of me, without the Maya, I would never come to know myself as Awareness. Thus the marriage between Being and Illusion.

    If you’d like to hear me recount an ancient myth that illustrates this marriage between the illusion of form and the Beingness which underlies all things, please click the button.

    Then, please read this marvelous poem written by Meister Eckhart (translated by Daniel Ladinski) in the 1200s. It sounds like it could have been written by Shakti from the myth.

    Consider joining me for my Virtual Yoga Nidra series starting THIS Sunday, October 8th, 2017. 12 pm Eastern. For six weeks, and in the comfort of your own home, we will be exploring this theme The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion. Each session will have a brief discussion, a gentle asana and breathing practice, followed by me leading your through a 30-minute Yoga Nidra practice so you too can feel yourself as Awareness, experience yourself as larger than body, emotions, and thoughts. Experience a happiness beyond bliss. Allow your entire Universe to be opened up. It will be relaxing and profound.

    Join me as we explore the Magic of Maya and how to use the illusions of what you might think of as you to uncover your True Self.

     

    When I Was the Forest

    When I was the stream, when I was the
    forest, when I was still the field,
    when I was every hoof, foot,
    fin and wing, when I
    was the sky
    itself,

    no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
    wondered was there anything I might need,
    for there was nothing
    I could not
    love.

    It was when I left all we once were that
    the agony began, the fear and questions came,
    and I wept, I wept. And tears
    I had never known
    before.

    So I returned to the river, I returned to
    the mountains. I asked for their hand in marriage again,
    I begged—I begged to wed every object
    and creature,

    and when they accepted,
    God was ever present in my arms.
    And He did not say,
    “Where have you
    been?”

    For then I knew my soul—every soul—
    has always held
    Him.
    — –Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)

    Find Your Inner Wisdom

    New York Meditation

    There is a part of you that just knows. Call it intuition. Call it your gut feeling. Call it your inner-guru. Call it what you want but I’d wager that sometime or other we’ve all had an experience that feels like we’ve tapped into some deeper wisdom within ourselves. Sometimes information or something a friend says hits you between the eyes. Other times as you might be considering which option to choose, you’ll land on one and your whole body completely relaxes. For some, this inner-wisdom is the feeling you get when you are connected to a divine source. And when we have these experiences, it feels like this wisdom is coming from somewhere different than our conscious mind of rational thoughts. It’s not an analysis. It’s deeper.

    In yoga we call this the Wisdom Body or in Sanskrit the Vijnanamaya Kosha (pronounced vig-nyana-my-ah). The source of this inner-wisdom is the place between dreaming and waking consciousness. Many cultures and spiritual traditions have different names and explanations for this place of inner-wisdom. For example, in Native American spirituality it’s said that this wisdom realm is very mystical, a source of visions, and ruled by the spiritual powers of the fox.

    Like all things in yoga, through practice we can develop an ability to better hear or recognize this inner-wisdom. Personally, I’ve also found a profound practice in learning to trust and act upon this inner-wisdom when I do hear it. Yoga, meditation, and Yoga Nidra, are all ways to practice accessing our Wisdom Body. In the yoga system of subtle body, you can access this inner-wisdom by meditating or performing breathing exercises while focusing on the Ajna Chakra, sometimes called your Third Eye (looks inward), the energetic and symbolic spot in the center of your forehead. Another way to access the Wisdom Body is through the symbols and feelings of your dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a fun way to practice hearing your inner-wisdom. Often you tap this Wisdom Body when you clear your head and do something simple like folding the laundry, going on a walk in the park, or walking your dog.

    Here’s a simple practice, to experiment tuning in to this inner- wisdom.  Just have fun with this and don’t be too serious about it.  Read through this first and then give yourself 10-15 minutes or so to try it.

    Practice:

    Lie down and close your eyes. Practice first focusing as you methodically bring your attention to all the different parts of your body: start from the top and go part-by-part to the bottom. Spend about at least 5 minutes doing this, you’ve got to let your body relax and tune in. When you’re relaxed, picture yourself sitting with someone very wise and loving. This person could be imaginary, living, passed on, young, old, whatever; it’s your inner reference so you can choose whoever you want. Sometimes, I choose Gandalf from Lord of the Rings as my wise person(can we keep that just between us?).  Picture in detail where the two of you would be, what you would be doing, and most importantly the feelings between the two of you. Imagine that this wise person knows you inside and out, they know your personality, your likes and dislikes, your past and even your future and they love every part of you. They are your biggest cheerleader. Now, imagine that this person is excited to tell you something profound about you. They turn to you and with a smile say, “You know . . .” Now, let your mind fill in the blank with the first thing that comes to mind, what they would say about you. Don’t try to think about it, let it be instinct, that’s the point. Pause and take it in. Notice the way your body feels after this bit of advice or wisdom from your inner-friend. Notice any emotions, sensations, symbols, images, or anything that spontaneously arises for you, if any. Remember, this person is just the symbol of your deep inner-wisdom. They are a part of YOU. Repeat it to yourself. This is part of your subconscious speaking to your conscious mind through the symbol of your friend. And if what this person says doesn’t resonate with you, don’t take it personally, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Or perhaps notice where the resistance is to what they said, sometimes there is a message in that, too. Or, just tell your wise inner-friend, “Thanks for the advice” (you’re choosing a different wise friend next time, but you don’t have to tell them that). Continue on with this meditation until you feel ready to get up. You might want to connect briefly with your body to get grounded before you leave your meditation. Sometimes this mediation can be profound and sometimes nothing happens but it is a great way to practice hearing this inner-wisdom. At very least, it will be relaxing.

    Or listen to me guide you through this practice. It's hosted on the meditation website, Insight.

     

    A Moveable Feast

    “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

    ~Earnest Hemmingway. Excerpt from A Movable Feast

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    In Paris, we rented a very small and completely perfect half-room apartment on the third floor. To call it a one-room apartment would be to grossly exaggerate its scale. Our only window looked out onto a common space, a sort of chimney of light that allowed each apartment both the pleasure of natural night and the pleasure of being a voyeur into the lives of our neighbors. For breakfast we ate warm omelets with fresh melted goat cheese that Seneca cooked on the hot plate. Seneca said the cheese was too strong and tasted like a sheep’s utter. I loved the strong cheese and we both swooned over a small salad of fresh arugula and the freshest tomatoes and strawberries so flavorful that it made me feel like I’d never before eaten something called a strawberry.

     Photo by David Newkirk

    Photo by David Newkirk

    After breakfast we left the apartment and descended the old but sturdy stairs down the narrow, winding staircase and made another day of walking the streets of Paris. Walking down our street I again felt like a voyeur looking into the lives of the people around me, like those sitting outside in the small seats of the Café Italien on the corner that served fresh-squeezed orange juice and delicious smooth coffee by the owner who was as warm as her coffee one day and as cold as her orange juice the next. Sitting in his usual seat was the middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair and neat moustache who seemed not to mind to run the errands on his scooter, nor mind being readily criticized by the other regulars of whom there seemed to be the same three or four, always with their commentary of the goings on in their petite corner of the world. We walked along the Rue Du Pont Aux Choux to Rue Vieille Du Temple, the small road which seemed to my navigational senses a main artery into the colorful quarter of the Marais and 3eme Arrondissement with its small, bright shops, historic buildings and boulangeries. This road led us directly to the Rue Des Rosiers, the small jewel of a street, like a vein of gold in the rough, that was home to the both the orthodox Jews and the gays, a street that served the finest falafel from boisterous Israelis, and where you can find the tidy shop of the most master crêpe-maker I believe I will ever know. 

    Sourcing Your True Power: an online Yoga Nidra course

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    Later that day as we left the Musée d’Orsay, the canvas of our mind painted by the colors of Cézanne, Monet, Van Gough, and Renoir, we walked down the narrow streets searching for the artisan pâtisserie and some mineral water. Looking around, the thought entered me that people are just people wherever you go. Whether in Paris or anywhere else, people need to belong. We all need to be loved. We all need to find purpose and beauty in the world whether that is through art, music, architecture, numbers, teaching, children, nature, or all of it. And looking around at this city showed me the miracles that people can perform when they believe in something. Everywhere I turned, I saw a spirit of strength and determination and capacity for beauty and meaning. I saw it in their architecture, their cathedrals and palaces and their houses and most poignantly by simply watching them live out another day in their regular lives. I saw it in the way they decorated their little shops and showed great care about their cafés and restaurants, the prim waiter with his pressed shirt and manicured mustache and his full-length apron, standing at elegant attention hoping to show off his mastery of service because that was his art, to impeccably serve un café and croissant and make correct change and whisk you away when you were finished with a polite “Merci. Bonjour!” The next evening we sat in the small wooden pews of Nôtre Dame at the free organ concert. Here, I felt the beauty and strength of the human spirit, past and present, like a weight in my heart and lump in my throat as the deep pedal tones of that organ shook that holy palace at its foundation and opened my eyes perhaps for the first time to the height of the ceiling and light of the stained glass windows, a peach sunset at our backs making color dance upon the giant grey stones. I felt the strength of those rough hands that built that edifice of solid rock hundreds of years ago which stands in the form of a giant cross to remind us all what is directly in the center of vertical and horizontal, that magical place between what is spiritual and what is temporal, that place that is now. And whether on the yoga mat or at Nôtre Dame, presence allows us the same vision into the divine part that is within all of us.

    Whether it’s the tourist who snaps a photo of the Mona Lisa on their phone and rushes off to something else hoping somehow to take it now and maybe look at it some other time, or it’s the local who never takes the time to get up into the mountains because there will be plenty of time later, it all speaks to the same thing: presence. It’s about this moment which if lived fully might express itself into something that could last into centuries or if wasted by living too much in the future or past never really happens. Without presence, we will never have our movable feast, we will never taste the cheese, see the stained glass, or feel the beauty of anything.

    I invite you to come to yoga this week and practice presence. I invite you to move about your daily life with presence and experience your own movable feast. 

     

    It's Been a Year

    Scott & Charity

    It's been a year . . .

    Hey everyone. Today is the one-year anniversary of my sister Charity's death. She died one year ago today,  unexpectedly, in a motorcycle accident. Above is a picture of us in Central Park, on our way to my yoga retreat in Spain last year. It was taken about two months before she died. Who knew that a year later I'd be living in NYC and visiting Central Park regularly?

    My heart is heavy and my throat is thick today thinking of her. But mostly I'm grateful for the awareness that the experience of her death has given me, the awareness of life's beauty and fragility.

    It's easy to get rubbed wrong by the dense throngs of people in NYC, out in mass, surging to get to work. Often during the morning commute, people's coffee hasn't kicked in and many people left their goodwill towards others at home.

    But I've been doing an experiment, one which has everything to do with remembering Charity. Whenever I find myself getting a little frustrated about all the people in the subway or miffed at some people's rudeness, I start to go out of my way to look at people in the face, the big tough agro dude, Rude Guy, the strung out homeless person, and the struggling single mom, and imagine each person as a brand new baby, held in the arms of their mother, and I remember that the strung out homeless person was once the most important thing in the Universe to that mama. I remember that every single person has needs, fears, loves, and hopes. I remember that every single person, sometime or other, will face death. And I remember that every single person has the capacity to reach their highest self. This changes my attitude from bugged to love.

    Charity's death reminds me that love matters most. The legacy that Charity left behind was her unparalleled generosity, unyielding loyalty, and unabashed love for those around her.

    May we see everyone we encounter, both the grouchy and the grateful, through the lens of love and light. And because we never know when our number will come up, go out and live the life you've always wanted to live. Let everything you do be driven by love and no matter what happens, you will have no regrets.

    Hey, I love you. You're an incredible person.

    Scott


    "The greatest thing you'll ever learn
    Is just to love and be loved in return."

    ~Nature Boy written by eden ahbez and sung by Nat King Cole

    Some Powerful Women

    Friends,

    With all that is happening socially and politically this week, I wanted to add my voice and vote toward the power of women.

    I believe in women. I believe in their essence, their mystery, their strength, and their wisdom. I believe in equality of all people, including and especially women. I believe to fully understand my power as a man, I must understand the essence of a woman.

    With that in mind, I thought I'd write a little about the power of women, specifically two of my favorite goddesses, Shakti and Akhilandeshvari. Understanding their story helps me to understand myself.

    This following are excerpts from my Deepen Your Practice course I did several months ago. I'll include the link below so if you want, you can go to my website and supplement this email by hearing stories, reading poems, and seeing videos about these goddesses and concepts. Please do, there's some really excellent stuff there.

    First, Akhilandeshvari: Goddess Never-Not-Broken

    This amazing Goddess sources her power from acknowledging the fact that she doesn't have her shit together. It's not that she's a hot mess and refuses to do anything about it. Rather, she refuses to shy away from those harsher realities we all go through: heartache, disaster, crisis, and grief. Akhilandeshvari is the compassionate Goddess who remains broken into pieces to show us how that too can be a power.

    Even her ride is a reminder of her ability to hang with disaster. She rides around on a ferocious crocodile to remind us that the very fear of disaster can be the vehicle for transformation, for stepping into action, and for seeing the absolute Truth in the moment. Often in times like these, what is most important in life shines through. That's the power of Akhilandeshvari.

    While we may never wish for an encounter with Akhilandeshvari, her presence marks the absolute truth of freedom from habits that don't serve us, stifling routine, and the past. Though it may not be the path we'd chosen for this awareness, her presence unmistakably wakes us up. 

    Akhilandeshvari's sister Goddess, Kali, similarly deals with destruction, the thrashing of things that need to expire, but in a fundamentally different way. She's the one who deals the blow with her uncompromising sword.

    Opposite is Akhilandeshvari who yields to the destruction in submission and humility as powerful teachers. 

    May we borrow the power of Akhilandeshvari's ability to transform heartache and crisis into illumination.

    Second, Shakti: Goddess of Energy, Power, and Movement
    Shiva is of consciousness pure and simple. Another word for this in Sanskrit is Perusha. He is the primordial male energy. The reason I bring him up is because the perfect and equal balance of Perusha, is the godess Shakti demonstrating Prakriti or movement, change, beauty, flavor, and suchness. Shakti is the primordial female energy and represents Mother Nature. There's a beautiful marriage between Shiva and Shakti, Perusha and Prakriti, consciousness or being and our physical and changeable nature. 

    It's said that the Shakti power within all of us resides in our sacrum, the sacred bone close to our root that generates our deepest power. Through yoga, meditation, mantras, and ceremony, this power may be released and is felt as physical energy which moves up the spine along the nadis (energy chanels) Ida and Pingala, primary paths of prana (male and female), and that power once released is called Kundalini. Many practitioners have described the physically enlightening moment when their Kundalini awakened. Kundalini Yoga is a style of yoga whose practice is to make this power rise through its practitioners. 

    Go to my web site and check out all the extra videos, stories, poems, etc around these two powerful goddesses. May they remind us of the distinguishable power that resides within all of us. Let us stand in solidarity and celebrate the power of women.

    Come to class on Friday night and practice to my fabled "Girl Power" playlist. Really fun!

    Scott

     

    The Worry Haiku

    Salt Lake City Yoga

    We are all subject to doubt and indecision from time to time. Recently I was wallowing in my routine despair about life and all of its desperate decisions.

    You know, the typical: What am I doing with my life? What would have happened if I would have done things differently? Why is Pluto suddenly not a planet anymore and why didn't I get to vote?

    So, feeling burdened by the weight and whirlwind of indecision about what direction my life should go, I decided to meditate. After mulling my mind over the various directions I could choose, I got tired of the fruitlessness of freaking out and instead tried to simply be aware, to focus on my breath rather than focus on my problems, to find that place that I've heard is always peaceful.
     
    It took a while but I found some peace there in my heart. And in a moment of clarity, my mind recalled that all these temporary and illusorily (but still important) decisions will be made clear the more I cultivate and understand that peace, that inner self. I realized that I didn't need to make a decision about those things now. That what I could to do is grow my relationship with what I call the True Self, the part that isn't defined by all of these temporary details of those momentarily important decisions.

    I felt that perhaps whatever my decisions, actions, or endeavors I faced, when made based from a grounded place of inner-peace, will be the product of something trusted and sure. Also, when I looked at my decisions or problems from that place of real clarity, I could see how I was reacting to fears and worries instead of looking at these questions with objectivity where I could move forward with power and conviction. With that sure knowledge of seeing things as they are, I had the courage to step out to those precarious edges of potential, pushed by a power of my own grounded knowledge of Self.
     
    And then suddenly there was no more searching because I'd momentarily found the source-it was right here all along. I've also discovered that when I've made a decision based on this knowledge of Self, it doesn't exempt me from problems or struggles further down the road but at least I know that the difficulty I will encounter is necessary turbulence for the path I've chosen. It is the Tapas, the Sanskrit concept meaning the heat necessary for transformation. It's the medicine.  It's what will continue to lead me down my path of self-discovery, the path that feels the most right to me because ultimately it is the product of my True Self.
     
    And as I go that True Self whispers like Gandalf in my ear, "Speak your truth, act with honesty and integrity, and always listen."
     
    Haiku:
     
    The Clash wails questions
    Weighed down by indecision.
    All things grow from Self.
     

    You Take Care of Everyone. Who Takes Care of You?


    Begin an incredible journey of deep self-discovery through blissful practice of
    Yoga Nidra.

    I get it.

    There's a lot on your shoulders. It feels like if you weren't there to do your job at home, work, and the community, that life would fall apart. It's true, you're very important to making sure that the world runs well.

    You take care of everyone but who takes care of you?

    First and foremost that should be yourself. And how do you take care of yourself? Do you have a weekly yoga routine? Do you schedule a massage for yourself? Do you make time to have time with your dearest friends? Do you schedule a haircut or manicure or something for yourself? You gotta take care of you.

    Part of taking care of yourself is understanding how you are also responsible for your own happiness. One of the most valuable teachings I've ever received is to be responsible for my own happiness, instead of misplacing that responsibility onto someone or something else.

    Once, while I was living in Korea, I visited a monk in who lived alone in the forest. I hiked through the forest and found his house and he invited me for lunch. As we sat down to an exquisite yet simple meal, the trees were early-spring-green, the air was humid and fresh, and the air was quiet. I felt a calm excitement that everything in the world were perfect at this moment.

    The first thing I told him was that it was very beautiful where he lived and that he must be very peaceful here. He looked straight into my eyes and without malice asked, "Why do I need a peaceful place to live to have inner peace? If the forest burned down tomorrow, would my peace burn with it?" It was a powerful teaching for me to realize that peace could only truly come from within.

    Yogi's often recite the ancient Gayatri Mantra. It teaches us that if we were to truly understand the unity of all things, we would understand that we already are the happiness, peace, or prosperity we feel that we lack. Even if this idea is easy to understand philosophically, it takes a lifetime of practice to experience this truth. In essence, yoga is uncovering the layers that blind us from seeing what is already there, including our own care and happiness.

    If you're interested in hearing me chant the Gayatri Mantra and perhaps would like to incorporate this mantra into a meditation practice of your own, click on the link below where you can hear and learn the mantra. If you're up for a great meditation/changing practice, learn the mantra by heart (or read and follow along) and use a mala to help you count as you repeat this mantra 108 times.

    With such a practice you'll emerge feeling grounded, in tune with yourself, and closer to the understanding that you are in control of you. You'll feel as if you are no different than the happiness you seek.

    This powerful theme of sourcing the deep power within you through the art and practice of meditation is the primary focus of my course that goes live on Friday, January 13. It's an online Yoga Nidra Meditation course that is designed to help you Source Your True Power through the blissful practice of Yoga Nidra (guided meditation).

    Some of the features and benefits of this course:

    Lifetime access to a vast library of meditations, breathing practices, stories, myths, chants, podcasts, articles, and more
    It's online so you can go at your own pace
    It's a practice that will help you reduce stress, feel verrrrry relaxed, while also uncover the deep power within you
    You'll be sleeping better, have greater confidence, and be a better whatever you are


    Registration ends and the course begins Friday so don't miss out. Click below to read more about the course.

    All the best to you!

    Scott

    Holding Space

    salt lake city yoga

    We don't need to change or be better than we are. We practice deep compassion as we extend this same privilege to other people and things around us and allow them to simply be, especially those things that would easily turn our hearts bitter.

    As we practice yoga and meditation, we cultivate and practice being. We also reduce the suffering known as Dukkah, which would hold us back from experiencing our highest self.

    One act of holding space is allowing yourself to be with a person or thing and allow them to be just as they or it is. I'm thinking of a friend who is sick or experiencing something mentally or spiritually challenging. Simply being with that person and holding space for them, without the need to fix or change anything, just being, allows a deep compassion to exist between the two of you.

    Another act of holding space is the decisive act of making room in your heart for that which would sooner canker your heart with feelings and make your mind fester with "shoulds" and what-ifs." When you hold space for someone or something, you don't have to fall in love with this person or thing but you are simply offering compassion toward them or it by not becoming sour toward it. And by so doing, you ultimately offer your own heart and mind in the same compassion--the heart that flourishes when it feels abundance and love, not bitterness, and the mind that abounds when it is sheltered from shoulds and what-ifs."

    Here are a few examples of holding space:

    The NYC 4 Train: stopped en route causing me to miss my flight home (years ago).
    Me: bought a NYC 4 Train T-Shirt--holding space for the 4 Train.

    World: Just as it is.
    Me: Accepting the world as it is.

    Holding space is often the first part of forgiveness toward yourself and others.

    This week, practice holding space for things that your either don't understand or which bother you.

    Scott

    If Children Ruled the World

     Ronda, Spain

    Ronda, Spain

    I'm back from my yoga retreat in southern Spain. Traveling is a wonderful education. One of the things I discover every time I come back is that sometimes it takes going away to make me understand that what I need to help me grow and evolve exists as much in my own backyard as it does anywhere else. The notion that you need to go away to discover yourself is only as true as the fact that sometimes somewhere else reminds us that if we are not present, it doesn't matter where you are. You'll miss the show entirely. 

    On this trip it was a joy in many ways traveling with Elio, my 11-month-old son. He's such a charmer and I watched unnecessary barriers of shyness, cultural disconnect, and even different language crumble as Elio meet strangers with his coy grin which were equalled with big smiles, laughs, and petitions to hold this sweet boy. Even waiters on our trip asked to hold our little prince and took pictures of themselves with our cutie. Love, purity, goodness all resides in us and we light up whenever we find it. Let children rule the world, or at least the child-like curiosity, love, and acceptance in us all. 

     Moments after realizing that we had no memory card in our camera.

    Moments after realizing that we had no memory card in our camera.

    Being on this trip also reminded me about presence. One blissful afternoon in the ancient city of Ronda, Spain, we were sitting down to a glass of sangria (our second for the day) under the shadows of the ancient church, listening to a soothing Spanish guitar player in the courtyard when we decided to review the pictures Seneca had taken with her camera. The moment was perfect! It was then (more than two weeks into our trip) that we discovered that there was no memory card in the camera and that all those photos we'd taken could only be recalled in our memories. What a great lesson! You can't capture it. You've got to live it, feel it. You must get into the habit of living it, knowing that this is all there is. NOW.

    Nonetheless, we managed to capture a few photos on our phones. Still, the lesson was not lost.

     

    Lionel Richie is My Guru

    Lionel Richie is my Guru

    A year or so ago, my wife and I were driving home from dinner at my Dad’s house.

    During dinner my dad was playing what I felt was some god-awful, nails-on-the-chalkboard, Soft Rock musical desecration on the stereo, Lionel Richie’s Greatest hits or something, I can’t remember, but on the drive home, I couldn’t stop going off about how terrible the music was and why was it that my dad even like that shit in the first place, and bla bla bla.

    After several long minutes of spewing my terrible opinions about the music I felt I’d been subjected to, it was suddenly as if the Universe had heard enough of my verbal vomiting and pushed mute on my mouth. With a stroke of sudden self-awareness, I heard myself blathering on about something so inconsequential and for no reason other than to satisfy some habitual downward spiral of negativity. With clarion insight, I checked my complaining mid-sentence and the next words that came out of my mouth changed my life: “I don’t need to have an opinion about that.”

    This phrase immediately canonized into my mind as my new mantra. At that moment, I saw both how useless my ranting was as well as the immense energy I was putting into spewing my acrid opinions all over those unfortunate enough to be in my company. God bless my wife, Seneca, who said nothing the entire car ride home but who, I’m sure, was enduring every Soft Rock epithet with thinning patience.

    “I don’t need to have an opinion about that. Who cares if my dad listens to Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits?!” From that moment forward, I decided that Lionel Richie was something I simply didn’t need to waste calories criticizing. And more importantly, I discovered the magical truth that I have the choice to turn my opinions off and that when I do, I feel empowered, unperturbed, and frankly happier. So simple!

    Can I suggest that you begin using this mantra immediately for massive and astounding results for not only your attitude toward the world but also the world’s attitude toward you? I’m really not over selling this.

    The people with whom I’ve shared this mantra are loving it. I shared it at a meditation event I cohosted a few weeks before the holidays last year. A few weeks later I received a message from a couple who had attended the event and who said that the mantra, “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” had single-handedly saved Christmas. Another woman wrote me recently to say that as she was driving to do be interviewed on television, she confronted the nervous knots in her stomach with “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” and watched her nervousness completely dissolve. These people are not alone. In fact, since I’ve been sharing this mantra, I’ve received such a preponderance of positive feedback from it that I’ve decided this mantra deserves its own post.

    Simple mantra. Profound implications. One reason it’s profound is because it provokes us to change our identity from one that defines itself by the mosaic of our ever-changing opinions, to one that identifies with the unchangeable Observer Self.

    The credo of the Opinionator is “I critique therefore I am.” But the Opinionator fundamentally misunderstands their identity. Despite the fact that negative opinions are insidious, addictive, and low-vibration, opinions are fundamentally changeable so identifying with opinions and indulging in their fleeting existence sets us up for a massive existential disappointment.

    Instead, identifying as an observer, even momentarily by doing something like repeating this mantra, is identifying with something much more real, what sages and spiritual traditions like yoga call the Observer Self, or True Self. The Observer Self is larger than our opinions and has the presence to pause and watch an opinion form and perhaps even choose to let it float on by down the river of consciousness.

    This practice of merely observing something rather than reacting to it with an opinion leads us toward experiencing the state of our true inheritance, that of boundless equanimity, a state that can’t be shaken, not even by the immense weight of Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits. Boundless equanimity is the natural comportment of our Observer Self and practicing identifying as the Observer Self rather than the Opinionator not only feels better but will also lead us to deeper stages of consciousness that can only come by deep observation.  

    As your consciousness develops by practicing and living this mantra, you’ll feel more at one with the world and it will feel more at one with you. You’ll be surprised to see new and old friends materialize around you, friends who maybe shied away from the cantankerous person you used to be. Suddenly you’ll have friends again, and together you can talk about Lionel Richie!

    And personally, if Lionel Richie was the guru to bring me to this truth, then perhaps I should be dancin’ on the ceiling . . . or place a shrine for him on my alter . . . or at least not be such a hater.  

    Yes, yes, yes. It is true that we do need some of our opinions. It’s true that we must very deliberately add our conscious opinion and deliberate action to help make a better world for everyone. I would proffer nonetheless that the more we practice the no-opinion mantra about small stuff, especially stuff around our family (man, that’s a difficult practice!), the more we will be able to apply our energies toward those issues that truly deserve an opinion and action.

    Plus, as practiced Observers, we will gain the compassionate ground to discuss and even debate important issues from our highest nature, with respect for those who have different opinions. And as practiced listeners and not reactionary opinion-spewers, maybe we’ll be able to inspire a similar respect from others.

    May we learn first to listen, to our hearts as well as those of others, and then respond to the call to action and not be pulled off our compassionate ground by circumstances, the rash opinions of others, or the incendiary sounds of Soft Rock. Practicing the no-opinion mantra is a powerful practice to that end.

    I invite you to start using “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” today, at least for the small stuff.

    And if after all this, you decide that you’re really happy with your tired menagerie of opinions. . . well, I don’t need to have an opinion about that. 

    On Stillness


    Yoga Sutra 1:2 Yoga citta vrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the cessation of fluctuations of the mind.

    One of our principle objectives in yoga is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is awareness. We can practice mindfulness while doing almost anything: walking your dog, riding your bike, practicing yoga, or just sitting.

    Getting quiet and drawing in to stillness is necessary for any good work to happen. It's this quietness, this stillness, that allows the busy waters of our mind and emotions to settle enough for us to see what's down in the depths our being.

    When we find this True Self, our work becomes effortless because we no longer feel that we are trying to affect anything from a personality we've conjured from a pretense. Rather, our work generates from this deep relationship with who we truly are. Our work is simply an extension of our deeper selves, the self that knows everything.

    Our work, our medium is, as one good friend says, the loudspeaker of the soul.

    To find this voice, we get quiet.

    Can I suggest a stillness challenge? Give yourself 10 minutes of meditation each day this week. Devote a time, lock the door, turn off your phone, let your family members and pets know that you are having some alone time and even set a timer. Start with 10 minutes and if it feels incredible, go longer.

    Here are a few simple ways to practice:

    There Is Practice
    Simply sit, close your eyes, and acknowledge what you sense, all of your senses. Without value or judgment, simply state what you are experiencing. Rather than identifying with the pronoun "I" simply say in your mind, "There is the sound of traffic, there is fatigue, there is worry, there is an incredible urge to rush to
    Hatch Family Chocolates and eat 40 pounds of truffles." You know, whatever thought, emotion, sensation occurs. Simply state what is. Try not to identify with it. Just watch it.

    Count Your Breaths
    Choose a number and count your exhales down from that number to zero. When you loose your place start back at that number. If you get to zero, start back at that or a different number. Keep you mind only on your breath. This is a deceptively difficult practice, I feel.

    Mantra
    Mantra means to transcend through the use of your mind. Simply find a phrase that means something to you, a scripture, a poem, some tidbit of inspiration, and repeat it in your mind. Words are powerful. You are your word.


    Scott

    Check out this incredible event:

    San Francisco Yoga Tour May 19-22

     

     

    The Cosmic Taco

     

    The Power of Intention
     

    Several years ago, I decided to move to a different place in town. I had been looking for a place to live for a while and had even committed to leave my old place by February 21st. I looked and looked and looked. Nothing. Nothing that made me feel comfortable enough to move. I soon found myself with 5 days left to find a place, sign a lease, and move and I had no real prospects. Needles to say, I began to get a little nervous.

    Maybe its because I'm a slow learner but it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I wasn't finding what I wanted because I didn't even know what I wanted. So, I took literally 30 seconds and wrote down about 12 things that I really wanted in a place. I didn't compromise, I didn't hedge what I wanted. I just laid it out: how much money, how much space, where, architecture type and era. Everything. Why not?

    The very next day, I found it. Not just something that sort of matched what I was looking for. Everything I was looking for, down to the neighborhood, price, and even charm factor. Oh, and it had to be clean.

    I was certainly pleased but not terribly surprised. Things like this have happened to me before. One dear friend says that if I really wanted a taco (perfectly Random), all I have to do is intend it and watch as my cosmic taco appears from the sky. Now I'm not so naive as to think that I get whatever I want from life, I have my share of disappointments, but I do see the effect of regularly setting intention manifest itself over and over in life. I feel that and meditation is simply a concentrated form of setting intention.


    I don't believe that I'm particularly charmed, but I do believe that we should all be brave enough to ask the Universe for what we want. I think it has something to do with what we feel we deserve.

    What do you deserve?

    In yoga we call this Sankalpa. It is the practice of setting an intention like planting a seed or finding a star by which to navigate your ship through this existence. This Sankalpa is one of the ways by which, I believe, we have commerce and conversation with the world that is bigger than ourselves.

    Try it out. Plant your seed of intention. Choose your star. Then devote your yoga practice and your practice of everyday living to this intention and keep your faculties of attention acute.

    Watch out for falling tacos!


    Scott

     

     

    I Love Good Humor

     


    I love good humor. I love the perfectly delivered punch line, packaged with impeccable comedic timing. To deliver good humor with an unmovable poker face is nothing short of an art.

    More than humor I love music. As a musician, listening to music is very important to me. One of my greatest pleasures is to listen to a CD in the isolation of my car and as I'm driving around, digest the entire album over the course of a couple of days or a week. I listen to the album over and over, like reading a book, hearing the way the chapters/songs relate to each other, picking up on the musician's overall character, finding musical jokes, tragedy, irony, and connecting musical themes. I feel the sound of the entire album.

    One of my other guilty pleasures is listening to radio talk. I guess I like to overhear others' conversations.

    Well, one day I'm was on my way to teach a morning yoga class when I opened my car door to discover that someone had broken into my car and had stolen my car stereo. I was devastated. My car was locked, there were no broken windows, and the door didn't look forced open. Judging by the skill and ease of this job, the guy who robbed me seemed to me to be the Bob Villa of car stereo thievery. Normally, when people steal your car stereo, the damage they incur trying to get your stereo out exponentially outweighs the value of the stereo itself. Fortunately, this guy was very thorough and created no other damage to the car than a hole in my dashboard with a few neat wires sticking out. In fact, the job was so neat, that I half expected to see the wires twisted off, taped, and labeled for me.

    The only sloppy part, the part that added insult to injury, was the fact that while so skillfully absconding with my stereo, the thief ate an ice cream bar and decided to graciously leave the used, sticky wrapper in the front seat of my car. The Pink Panther leaves a single white glove; this guy chooses as his signature to leave an ice cream wrapper. Go figure. I picked up said wrapper and, fuming, was about to throw it away when I noticed the label on the wrapper, the irony of which almost smacked me across the face. It said in nauseatingly bright and happy colors, "I Love Good Humor." I was too upset to get this sick joke and appreciate the "humor" of the situation, although I sensed that there may be some rich lesson here. Instead of throwing it away, I placed the wrapper in the now vacant cavity that used to hold my stereo and drove away, brooding.

    It's like my arm had a mind of its own. No sooner did I start to drive away than by complete and mindless habit did my arm attempt to reach over and turn on my stereo, only to nudge the wrapper sitting in the stereo's hole. I looked over to see "I Love Good Humor" in all its happy and sticky arrogance, gloating back at me. This did not improve my mood. The silence in the car was a screaming reminder that I felt someone had seriously wronged me. Perhaps 30 seconds later, again my arm attempted to turn on my stereo only to receive a similar result. My mood was changing from bad to worse. I lasted maybe another strong two minutes before my now music-starved arm reached out to fill the deafening silence in the car, only to hit the same infuriating wrapper. "OKAY, UNIVERSE. OKAY! HARDY HAR! JOKE'S ON ME! ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE MOST IN LIFE HAS BEEN CRUELLY RIPPED OFF AND NOW I HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN BY LOOKING AT THAT STUPID WRAPPER. VERY FUNNY!"

    Despite my internal rant, I kept the wrapper in its new home. I drove around that day, and the next, and the next, catching myself occasionally trying to turn on my new ice cream wrapper. It didn't work.

    After about a week of sulking, something magical happened (no, the wrapper didn't spontaneously begin singing show tunes), I decided to try chanting while in the car. It felt good, really good. Then after a few days I tried singing to myself. My voice rocks when no one else is listening. I prayed. I also began to keep quiet and think about the yoga class I was about to teach, picturing which students would be there and what they might need from a yoga class. I began to notice amazing things, breathtaking things, things like the silhouette of the mountains against in the moonless, pre-dawn light of the morning. I noticed the way that the car felt as I drove it, the way it would take bumps, the vibrations of the engine tingling my hands on the steering wheel, the rush of acceleration. I began to notice with acute clarity my emotions and thoughts. All this silence was giving me an incredible opportunity to direct my attention inward.

    My teaching and my personal practice improved almost immediately. I began to arrive to class much more ready to teach. I was less distracted, more focused, and could read the needs of a class much quicker and effectively. I found myself finally saying the things that I'd felt but could not find words to express. I said the right things because my mind had been "in class" since I left home. As I practiced yoga or meditated, I no longer spent the first half of practice trying to get the last song out of my head.

    One of my most stark realizations was the understanding that I was completely addicted, not just to music, but more pointedly to the need to have some noise present, the perceived need to be drawn away from my own center and hear someone else's conversation, someone else's music, someone else's jokes. It was only then that I understood the looming joke resting quietly, stone-faced, in the car stereo cavity of the dashboard of my car. It had taken weeks but one day, while driving around, I finally got the joke! The comedic timing had built to this fantastic climax: here I was, a yoga teacher, traveling around like a mad man, music and chatter blaring in my head, only to screech to a halt, run into the studio, sit down, and talk about getting quiet. Ha! I wasn't practicing what I was teaching. What's more I finally got a taste of the brilliance of silence. I got it, Universe! I got it! The joke was on me. It took this lesson of "grandmotherly kindness," the ultimately compassionate lesson where your master beats you over the head with a stick (or steals your car stereo), to teach you something crucial. For me this lesson was how to know and appreciate stillness.
     
    It took about a year until I eventually got a new stereo. Still, I learned something very valuable in the silence, something I wasn't entirely ready to give up. I learned that no matter what our work is, if we want to do good work, we need to have a solid relationship with silence. This is what we are practicing in yoga and meditation. Now, I listen to music as a choice, not a compulsion. Now, I listen to the silence.

     

    I love good humor. 

    What It Means to Be a Man

     Photo by Dallas Graham

    Photo by Dallas Graham

    Yoga means union, in part union of masculine energy and feminine energy. The marriage of these two seemingly different parts creates a whole that is both balanced and interdependent. What better week than the week of Valentine's Day to celebrate this union as we practice understanding the marriage of these energies within us through the practice of yoga. Let me be clear: we all have both masculine and feminine energy regardless of our gender or sexual orientation. This week, I want to talk about the masculine, and though we all have both, some of us exhibit more of the masculine and others more of the feminine. To make it simple, I'm going to label the masculine as "man."

    To be a man means to be courageous. Courage literally means full of heart. Therefore, being courageous is being connected to emotions, not divorced from them. Embodying this kind of courage has been a theme in my inter-personal work over the past few years. To be courageous you must know your own heart and that means doing the work, getting in there and finding who you are inside. It means meditation and yoga. It means soul searching, often times on a solo retreat, or a daily meditation or yoga practice, sometimes for an extended period, then coming back to your family, your relationships, your work, passions, and hobbies with that courage, that conviction and that strength of spirit to share that knowledge and stability as a gift to the world.

    To be masculine means to be conscious. It means being spacious, holding space for the dynamic and beautiful qualities of the feminine. The quintessential archetype for the feminine is the dancer, the beautiful, expressive, dynamic, and changeable presence. The changeable world-nature, time, and everything that moves-is part of this feminine realm. So, anything that is changeable is an expression of the feminine. And the masculine's job is to be able to stand and witness this beautiful dancing feminine, to look it straight in the eyes and let it dance. Hold space. Going into nature and witnessing that realm of growth, decay, expression, and beauty is a marriage of the masculine presence and the feminine dancer. Of course this consciousness also extends into the realm of holding space for the women in our lives with honor, love, and respect. To be a man means to appreciate and celebrate what it means to be feminine, in the interdependent balance of wholeness.

    Men are protectors. But to be a protector a man must be vulnerable. Protecting means going into the darkness to explore the unknown in order to make safe what you love. It means leaving the warmth and light of the fire to explore the sounds coming from the dark woods. Nature is feminine therefore the masculine can help protect it by giving a shit about our air quality and natural resources. Being a man means protecting the feminine. Women are certainly powerful. Let's not forget that the lioness is the fierce hunter of the family. But like a pride of lions, the protective males respond to any abuse of the female. Like lions, men must help protect women.

    It's a tragic truth that one out of three women in the world have been, will be, or are currently subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Being a man means creating a line of warriors, of lions, that will stand up to any abuse and say, "not on our watch!" It means being conscious of a problem and saying, "no." It is about marrying the male consciousness and the feminine call to action in order to make a world where all our brothers and sisters can enjoy living safely and nobly. True strength is not about muscle, it's about courageously exploring your heart, it's about consciousness, and it's about being willing to be vulnerable in order to protect nature, women, and all of us by sometimes challenging the status quo. The yoking or yoga of these elements is the true expression of masculinity.

    In the name of standing up in opposition to the abuse of women, I invite you is to look at this wonderful cause, One Billion Rising. This cause is dedicated to creating a voice for the abuse of women, raising consciousness, and making a difference in women's lives. Any abuse of any one of us hurts all of us.

    Choose this Valentine's Day, the day dedicated to those you love, to evoke the spirit of masculinity and stand up for women.

    Check out this beautiful video "Man Prayer," words by Eve Ensler. It made me cry.


    There's Something In The Tea

    I lived in Korea for a year teaching English and studying meditation. I loved to explore the locals-only part of this fascinating country.

    One day a few friends and I wandered into a tea shop in the old part of town. At the back of the shop was a man, dressed in the Han Bok, the traditional Korean habit, who noticed us enter the shop.

    Without a word he began to prepare tea. It took us a few moments to wander to the back of the store. By the time we noticed the man sitting behind a small wooden table, the water was hot. He motioned for us to join him. Delighted, we sat on a few cushions lying on the floor in front of the low table. He poured the tea into the pot and allowed the tea to steep.

    After a few minutes, he laid out a few delicate tea cups and performed the proper ceremony to serve tea.

    He didn't speak English. We didn't speak Korean. Together we spoke the language of human beings sharing tea. We simply sat in each other's presence and enjoyed tea. We didn't need to make small talk. We didn't need to make charades. Words would have been excessive.

    Several long minutes passed. Then, we rose and bowed humbly to him. He smiled and bowed humbly back. We left the shop but he has never left our hearts.

    There's something in the tea.

     

     

    Shoveling Snow With Buddha

    I love this poem. It's perfect for today and expresses my thoughts on mindfulness better than I ever could in my own words. 

    Enjoy!

    Shoveling Snow With Buddha by Billy Collins

    In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
    you would never see him doing such a thing,
    tossing the dry snow over a mountain
    of his bare, round shoulder,
    his hair tied in a knot,
    a model of concentration.

    Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
    for what he does, or does not do.

    Even the season is wrong for him.
    In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
    Is this not implied by his serene expression,
    that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

    But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
    one shovelful at a time.
    We toss the light powder into the clear air.
    We feel the cold mist on our faces.
    And with every heave we disappear
    and become lost to each other
    in these sudden clouds of our own making,
    these fountain-bursts of snow.

    This is so much better than a sermon in church,
    I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
    This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
    and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
    I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

    He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
    as if it were the purpose of existence,
    as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
    you could back the car down easily
    and drive off into the vanities of the world
    with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

    All morning long we work side by side,
    me with my commentary
    and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
    until the hour is nearly noon
    and the snow is piled high all around us;
    then, I hear him speak.

    After this, he asks,
    can we go inside and play cards?

    Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
    and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
    while you shuffle the deck.
    and our boots stand dripping by the door.

    Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
    and leaning for a moment on his shovel
    before he drives the thin blade again
    deep into the glittering white snow.

    Billy Collins

    Not Troubled

    saltlakecityoga123

    Yoga gives us a chance to start seeing our reactions: our aversion to suffering, and our clinging and attachment to pleasure and joy. It gives us a breath, a pause, a chance to ALLOW for the world and our lives to play themselves out, even if it is uncomfortable or awkward or even painful sometimes. We can take lesson, as usual, from nature, of which we're a part...
          The Buddha teaches his servant Rahula:
         "Develop a state of mind like the EARTH, Rahula, for on the earth all manner of things are thrown, clean and unclean, dung and urine, spittle, pus and blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted...
         "Develop a state of mind like WATER, for in the water many things are thrown, clean and unclean, and the water is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And so too with FIRE, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with AIR, which blows upon them all, and with SPACE, which is nowhere established."
    (From "The Glass Palace," by Amitav Ghosh)

    May we see the beautiful world we live in. May we breathe and move, and practice less attachment and aversion this week. I hope see you in class (but I’m not attached!).

    The following is an ancient mantra that my teacher Erin Geesaman Rabke taught me:

    May we and all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

    May we and all beings be from sorrow and any causes of sorrow.

    May we and all beings never be separated from the sacred happiness which is beyond sorrow.

    And may we and all beings live in equanimity, without too much attachment or aversion.

    And may we live recognizing and honoring the equality of all that lives

    Sarva mangalam. (May the greatest goodness unfold)

    Scott